OVERVIEW: In what we plan to be our final mock draft, barring a blockbuster trade prior to Thursday afternoon, our seventh incarnation of the mock sees several changes because of juggling at the top – including a projected trade that starts knocking dominoes down. The biggest hurt comes at quarterback, where we no longer project a team putting a franchise QB designation on any of this year’s crop.
1. Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. The Chiefs are actively looking to trade Branden Albert, which seems to be the handwriting on the wall. If they can’t get a deal done, the die will be cast that the Chiefs are looking elsewhere to the new-look future and could make things difficult. But what an offensive line they will have if they have both Joeckel and Albert.
2. Jacksonville – Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. There is a growing sentiment that the Jags might double-down on offensive tackle and take Eric Fisher. They may get sweet offers to trade out, but, if they stay, they need to address their anemic pass rush. Jordan is the best pure pass rusher in this year’s draft class and would help make a big team weakness a little less glaring.
3. Oakland – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Thanks to their ridiculous trade for retired Carson Palmer, the Raiders still owe Cincinnati a second-rounder to go with last year’s first-round pick – even though Palmer is gone. With just one pick in the top 65, the Raiders need to either trade or make the safest possible pick that meets a need. Floyd is that guy, especially for a franchise that has been ruined by draft-day blunders early.
4. Philadelphia – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. Chip Kelly came from the college game and he knows what he needs to make the transition to his 3-4 defense. Lotulelei was as dominant as any DT in college football and could be down-and-distance versatile – able to be a run-stopping end or move over to the nose. His heart scare at the NFL Scouting Combine may drop him out of the top 10, but he belongs here.
5. Detroit – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. Apparently I’m the only person concerned about his complete lack of elite competition. Some scouts rank him No. 1 overall. While the Lions need to make a ton of defensive picks, their investment in Matthew Stafford and Megatron requires that they replace left tackle Jeff Backus. They will get trade offers, but if you can draft a left tackle in the first round every 13 years, you’re doing something right.
6. PROJECTED TRADE: Cleveland (from San Diego) – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. In this proposed trade the Browns get San Diego’s first- and second-round picks (a value chart-friendly deal). The Chargers are never going to compete for the AFC title (or a division title) if Philip Rivers continues to take the beatings he has the last couple of seasons. A forced move, but one that is necessary now.
7. Arizona – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. If one of the top three offensive tackles is still on board, he comes off here. But, with Johnson gone, the Cardinals go after the defensive player with the biggest potential impact. Ansah needs a lot of refinement to his game but has the biggest upside of any defensive end in the draft and is worth a gamble on greatness here.
8. Buffalo – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. The Bills are going to end up taking a quarterback, but it won’t be Geno Smith here. The biggest offseason hit the Bills suffered was losing Pro Bowl guard Andy Levitre. He needs to be replaced immediately and this is a great year for guards – at least the top two slated to come off in the first half of the first round. Buffalo starts a quick position run, but it isn’t at QB.
9. New York Jets – Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU. With the trade of Darrelle Revis, the Jets have the look of a team in rebuilding mode with a ton of holes. With so many needs, you go with the best athlete regardless of position. Mingo will be a 3-4 outside linebacker in this defense and could be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
10. Tennessee – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. Milliner could go as high as No. 4 to Philadelphia, but, coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum, he has become a question mark in a draft in which the cornerback depth is good. Top picks don’t have the luxury of having too many red flags. He’s a nice value pick for a team that failed to pay or replace Cortland Finnegan when he followed Jeff Fisher to St. Louis.
11. Cleveland (from San Diego in projected trade) – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. The Browns have a lot of holes to fill, so it’s possible they could trade down again. The addition of a dominant guard could do wonders for the offensive line (and the offense), and Warmack could end up being a 10-year starter for the Browns.
12. Miami – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. Few players have seen a drop in their stock in recent weeks as much as Rhodes, who some draft experts have falling to the bottom third of the first round. Miami has been very aggressive in free agency and have two second-round picks, so they could potentially jump up to make a trade offer to land one of the elite offensive tackles. Rhodes staying in Florida seems like a good match.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay) – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. The Jets are happy they don’t have to take Rhodes and let him wither under the Revis Island comparisons. There are many needs on this team and having their own version of Wes Welker would upset Bill Belichick – reason enough to make the pick. The Jets will get offers here as well as they did at No. 9, but, if they stay and play, you can’t argue Mingo and Austin.
14. Carolina – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. I don’t think I’ve come off this pick in more than two months and don’t see any reason to change now. The Panthers need help in the middle of their D-line and Richardson is the balm for that burn. WR Cordarrelle Patterson teamed with Steve Smith would be intriguing, but the need on the D-line trumps Cam Newton’s fantasy dream tandem.
15. New Orleans – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. The Saints need to replace OT Jermon Bushrod, put the piranhas ahead of them have already made a skeleton out of the elite O-line crop and, thanks to Bountygate, the Saints don’t have another pick until the third round. They need to take the most impactful defensive player they can find, and with the switch to the 3-4, Jones can be used immediately as a piece to that puzzle.
16. St. Louis – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. The Rams need a wide receiver badly after losing their top two receivers from a year ago, but the teams in between them here and No. 22 don’t have wide receiver as their top draft priority. Any of them could snap up Vaccaro. The Rams make the pick and keep their fingers crossed a receiver-needy team doesn’t move up.
17. Pittsburgh – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame. Few teams use their tight end more in the red zone that Ben Roethlisberger did with Heath Miller last year. He was a safety blanket, but couldn’t stretch the field. Coming off surgery, Miller is no guarantee to be back to 100 percent and, even if he is, Eifert is his replacement. The Steelers don’t get in bidding wars. They build through the draft. Eifert could make as a big a long-term impact as any wide receiver or linebacker.
18. Dallas – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. If Vaccaro is still on the board, I think he goes here. With Monte Kiffen bringing a 4-3 Tampa-2 defense to Dallas, the need for a young defensive tackle for growing the interior rotation is a big need and Jerry Jones needs to give Kiffen the ingredients to make the transition.
19. New York Giants – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. The Giants don’t have too many holes to fill, but depth at the corner position is one of them. Prince Amukamara has the promise to develop, but Corey Webster ended up on too many other teams’ highlight films last year. Trufant would push both of them and potentially turn the Giants from a questionable corner crop to arguably one of the best in the NFC.
20. Chicago – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama. For the last three years, the Bears O-line has been awful and Jay Cutler has taken a beating. This pick, combined with the signing of OLT Jermon Bushrod in free agency, could give the Bears bookend tackles for the rest of the decade -- turning a glaring weakness into a strength in less than two months.
21. Cincinnati – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia. The Bengals have never shied away from taking on talented players who have some off-field baggage. If based solely on his talent level, he would be long-since gone. In the Bengals defense, he will likely play on the outside and be able to be utilize his unique sideline-to-sideline skill set.
22. St. Louis (from Washington) – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. The Rams will be giddy if their finger-crossing after taking Vaccaro at No. 16 works out. While I think Patterson would be better suited to be on a team that has a legitimate No. 1 receiver so he could develop over time, here he will likely be asked to be the main man right out of the gate. He has the most upside of any receiver in the draft, which would be an ideal scenario for Jeff Fisher (and Sam Bradford).
23. Minnesota – Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame. This is an interesting scenario that would have Te’o available and Rick Spielman in the position to add another Golden Domer to the Metrodome crew. The Vikings have done well with Fighting Irish players (John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith) and none of them were as decorated for dominance as Te’o. Like it not, girlfriend or not, he makes sense and the Vikings take him here in case they want to trade away their second pick for a team wanting to get back in the first round to take QB Geno Smith two picks from now.
24. Indianapolis – Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State. Anthony Costanzo is ideally a right tackle. While the Colts have other needs, last year they had the No. 1 pick for a reason. They stunk. They used it on Andrew Luck and now they need to protect their enormous investment. A training camp competition could determine who is on the blind side and who is on the front side. Regardless, Luck needs more protection.
25. Minnesota (from Seattle) – D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston. There are few prospects rising as fast as Hayden. A player who almost died last year when he suffered a severed vein in practice that kills most people afflicted with it, he was viewed as a mid-first round prospect. Recovered from the surgery, he has the ability to be a difference-maker. With Antoine Winfield gone and Chris Cook in the final year of his rookie contract (and inability to play a full schedule), the Vikings need help at cornerback and Hayden’s stock is rising fast enough that he makes sense here.
26. Green Bay – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama. The Packers haven’t had a dominant running back since Ahman Green was one of the game’s elite dual threats … and that was before Brett Favre was even considering retirement. For an offense as potent as Green Bay can be, they won’t win another championship tournament by being so one-dimensional. Lacy gives respect to the running game immediately and, potentially, long-term.
27. Houston – Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee. There are some scouts who believe Hunter will be the better pro than Patterson, who was drafted ahead of him. The Texans are a run-first offense, but Andre Johnson needs a running mate who can garner defensive attention – or take advantage of a lack of attention. Given Johnson’s inability to consistently stay healthy, a team on the cusp of a Super Bowl run gladly takes Hunter.
28. Denver – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. John Elway has bent over backwards to provide Peyton Manning with what he needs to make the offense work. It’s come at a price – the Denver defense. The Broncos might make all of their picks in the first two days on defense to make a championship run Manning wants before he retires.
29. New England – Keenan Allen, WR, Cal. The Patriots have more questions than usual with the free agent loss of Wes Welker and surgeries needed by both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Pats don’t usually use a first-round pick on a wide receiver and are always subject to trading out of the first round, but Allen is a value pick at this point and has long-term upside that Tom Brady can use.
30. Atlanta – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford. Cornerback is a definite possibility here, but the Falcons rely on the right end as a focal point of the passing offense as much as just about any team in the league. Tony Gonzalez has come back for one more season and who better for Ertz to learn from than a Hall of Famer who wants a ring and is going to bring everything he has left to the table in 2013 – and then give his spot to Ertz.
31. San Francisco – Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International. The 49ers biggest offseason loss was safety Dashon Goldson. Cyprien needs some seasoning, but Jim Harbaugh’s staff is earning a reputation for getting the most of out young talent with upside. Cyprien is an ideal candidate to become the next in that growing list.
32. Baltimore – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU. The Ravens have been doing a nice job over the last month to make up for some devastating losses, especially at linebacker – where Ray Lewis retired and Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe found greener pastures in free agency. If Manti Te’o is still available, he likely goes here, but with him gone, Minter becomes the next best option. Any experienced SEC inside linebacker doesn’t have a long NFL learning curve.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.